I don’t know how you feel about the prefaces or forwards found in many books. Personally, I am somewhat ambivalent about them. It seems to me that they tend to fall into two categories. One category are those forwards that are written by a “celebrity,” someone well known in religious, academic or entertainment circles. I often wonder how many of these introductions appear in the book – often emblazoned on the cover - just to sell a few more copies. The second category of book prefaces seems to me to be deeply personal. They involve someone I may or may not have heard of, but someone who knows the author and his or her work personally. These are the kind of introductions I read much more carefully, because I know they will likely express the personal impact the author’s words have had on the writer’s life.
The forward found in Jared Wilson’s book The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the work of Christ in your Life and Ministry belongs in the second category. It is written by Mike Ayers, a pastor and Bible College professor in Houston, Texas. I am not personally familiar with Dr. Ayers. Although he does not explain his personal connection to the author of the book, he very clearly states how he has experienced the truths of what the author is writing about.
Occasionally when I am reading, a sentence or perhaps a paragraph stops me short, arrests my attention and causes me to stop, think and at times pray. Those are good moments. I had one of those moments while I read the forward to The Pastor’s Justification. The sentence that arrested me was this: “I’ve concluded that God is as much, if not more, interested in doing a great work in us as he is in doing a great work through us.” (p. 12, italics in the original)
I cannot tell you how many times I catch myself thinking – what is God going to do through me? That is not a bad thing. Obviously when I stand in the pulpit or sit counseling someone, I hope and pray that God’s Spirit uses me to impact someone in some way. I usually recognize, when I am not mired in pride, that anything God is doing through me is not because of any innate talents or abilities in me, but rather because of His gifts, His word, and the power of His Spirit.
Dr. Ayers’ words were a wonderful reminder that God may bring a certain situations or persons into our life to do a work in our hearts. For example, take the believing spouse in a difficult marriage. God may be working through you to affect your spouse. But he also will have placed you in that marriage to teach you something about trust and love and holiness. As the subtitle of Gary Thomas’ book Sacred Marriage challenges us, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” Exactly!
The same principle applies to all our other relationships. It applies to the friendship that has gone sour. It applies to the perpetually angry neighbor. It applies to the incredibly difficult or verbally foul person at work. While God can work through you to touch their lives, God is also, and perhaps more importantly, working in you in the midst of those relationships.
There are more applications than just relationships. When God allows a difficult job situation to crop up in your life, he can be both working through you and in you. The same goes for financial difficulty or ill health. God may use you as a testimony, but he is also doing his transforming work in you are a result of whatever hard, testing or painful situation you are in. He is teaching you to trust Him and He continues to be willing to do a good work in your heart.
Personally, I have to periodically stop and force myself to remember this great truth: God is often more interested in what in going on inside me that what is going on through me. What a wonderful blessing. God is always at work. There are no situations or relationships he cannot touch redemptively. He is molding me, shaping me, transforming me and conforming me to the image of His Son. And for that, I am, and will be, eternally grateful.